Setting: The living room of a house, uninteresting save for its sparseness. To the right there is a small table at which sits a woman, Sylvia. In the middle another small table on which sits a telephone. To the left, in a larger chair, is a man, Iain.
Sylvia is writing something. Iain is reading something.
Pause. After which Sylvia sighs and speaks.
SYLVIA: I wonder if this is good enough.
Pause. Iain, without turning.
IAIN: It should be.
SYLVIA: I mean, of course, given the chance, I could do more with it. (Pause.) With enough time, everyone can do more with something. Would you look at it?
Iain does not respond. Sylvia stands and approaches him. She hands him the letter. He takes it and reads slowly.
SYLVIA: I just wonder if it is good enough.
IAIN: Seems to be.
Iain hands the letter back. Sylvia returns to her table.
SYLVIA: Do you think, perhaps, that I could do more with it?
IAIN: Of course.
SYLVIA: Do you think that I should do more with it?
IAIN: If you feel you need to.
SYLVIA: It’s not that really, there is no need on my part, it is an act of necessity, as opposed to the act of will. (Pause.) Neither have to be enjoyable.
Pause. Reads over letter.
SYLVIA: Some can be tragic.
Pause. Then erupting.
SYLVIA: Shall we go out today? We can take in something. Add to ourselves. Whatever you like. The weather is not too fine but we cannot have everything our own way. There must be a show on or something worthwhile, this is the age of the tourist is it not, the forever passing people, we must keep them entertained.
Goes to centre table on which rests some papers. She begins to open them and read.
SYLVIA: Hmmm. An awful lot for pilgrims, not so much for us normal people. That is a shame isn’t it? They tell us to enjoy our own backyards, to forget about the car, enjoy the local colour and the local history, and then they don’t put out much for us. (Pause.) How can one enjoys ones own backyard? (Pause.) What if you did not have a backyard? (Pause.) I don’t understand all these slogans. (Pause.) Some people have gardens I expect. One can enjoy a garden. Grass is, something. Well you know what I mean. Still if one could chose ones home we would all have castles. I expect that a few of my own would have more than one, my sisters were a greedy little bunch, the whole family was, that was well known, but my sisters were a terrible lot, they were fierce in their way, wanting to have their prince and their castle, not interested in the qualities of soul, they were always so…
SYLVIA: What did you say?
IAIN: Fertile, the word you were looking for. Grass is fertile. It gives depth to a scene.
SYLVIA: Well I did not mean it like that.
IAIN: Yes, you did.
SYLVIA: Well no, I was merely, thinking…
IAIN: You meant, what I said. You meant fertile. The grass is fertile. Grass is fertile is it not?
SYLVIA: Well, yes, I assume it would have to be. I am not an expert…
IAIN: Grass is fertile, and that is what you meant. Grass gives depth to a scene. You see, my love, grass makes a backyard, a garden.
SYLVIA: Well I do not feel like going out, not if I have to be mistaken for someone in a mood.
IAIN: Well that would be one’s own decision.
SYLVIA: I cannot always be perfect. I must get back to the letter.
IAIN: The letter is fine, the letter is adequate.
SYLVIA: And that is enough. Adequate.
IAIN: For its purpose, it is most adequate, and most enough. Who cares what they say? What will they do in any case, it is always a rejection.
SYLVIA: That does not mean you have to stop trying.
IAIN: I never said it did. Do what you wish.
SYLVIA: Why must we fight about this.
IAIN: I am not fighting. Do what you wish. It is only a letter, and it is adequate, it is enough, so send it as it is, enough and hope for the best, which will be enough for all of us.
SYLVIA: I cannot imagine what it is like in there. Can you imagine what it is like in there?
IAIN: No, it is insufferable.
SYLVIA: Can you imagine it.
IAIN: Horrible, no doubt.
SYLVIA: One should try and help those who cannot help themselves.
IAIN: That is what the book says.
SYLVIA: Help thy neighbour.
IAIN: Eh. I think so, I have a copy around here somewhere.
SYLVIA: So you don’t altogether disapprove of what I am doing?
IAIN: No, not altogether. Have at it.
SYLVIA: Because you don’t believe it will do any good?
IAIN: No not at all.
SYLVIA: And what if it does some good? What if it matters, what if it makes a difference?
IAIN: Then I would hope you have thick skin.
SYLVIA: Why would you say that?
IAIN: Some people don’t like meddlers. They take offence at those who pester officials. A cake is a bribe in its own way I suppose.
SYLVIA: Even if it’s for a good cause, to save a child for example.
IAIN: Yes, even if it is to save a child. Or a hundred children. Some people just don’t like it when you pester officials. But then again, this is not about a child, or a hundred children, is it, this is something altogether different, is it not.
SYLVIA: Yes, but if it was.
IAIN: But it is not.
SYLVIA: Yes, but if it was.
IAIN: Well then we would have to reconsider the specifications of our conversation.
SYLVIA: We are a married couple. We shouldn’t need specifications.
IAIN: If we weren’t married you wouldn’t say that. (Pause.) Are you going to make tea today or something? (Pause. Then quickly.) Or a cake was it, a cake for the warden, ha! I’ve seen you bake. (Pause. Slowly.) A vile sickness spreads. Everyone is at risk. The grand poisoner, if you are not careful, she will come and get you in your sleep. Don’t ever marry my father said, you give away so much in return for so little, of course he never married my mother, and then he shot himself. Lucky man. (Pause.) Did you say we were going out somewhere, you had somewhere in mind, a pilgrimage somewhere, something?
SYLVIA: It was merely a suggestion, and not a pilgrimage, and I was not being firm in any direction.
IAIN: Tea then is it?
SYLVIA: When my letter is perfect.
IAIN: Your letter is fine.
SYLVIA: I want it perfect.
IAIN: It is perfect so.
SYLVIA: You said it was adequate. I want it perfect.
IAIN: Well you can’t…
SYLVIA: I want it perfect.
IAIN: As you wish.
Pause. Sylvia finishes the letter, stands and goes to the middle table, looking again through the papers.
SYLVIA: Did you want some tea?
IAIN: Are you finished?
SYLVIA: The letter, yes. It is done.
IAIN: Can I see it?
SYLVIA: No, you had no interest before, so you have no interest now, despite what you may think.
IAIN: But I want to see perfection. I want to see how it’s done.
SYLVIA: It is merely workmanlike, I had to tune down the inevitable, I was writing to civil servants after all, one has to be careful with such people. Poetry can get out of hand, it’s so easily interpreted. Tea was it. Now where did I see that review.
IAIN: In the paper I would expect.
SYLVIA: Yes, but which one and on what page. Musicals. Theatre. Arts and entertainment. Why the two go together is beyond me. And sports then inter…
The phone rings. Sylvia picks up the receiver.
SYLVIA: Hello, Sylvia Rice speaking… No… No he most definitely did not place the call from here… Who would say such a thing… It is not plausible… Well perhaps I am an impostor, what good will that do you either way… Family is family… Oh well then I cannot be accountable… How gruesome… How tremendously gruesome… Yes, family is family, as you have said… One would not dare dream of answering such personal questions on anothers behalf… Pitiful, yes… Cut them up you say… Oh while they were alive you say… Terrible, how gruesome… Yes, yes, you have said, family is family… Well what’s to be done… Look, I appreciate your interest but I have nothing more to say, this is not important in my life, it is just a removed abstraction, if one can imagine such a thing… Yes, yes, of course, I am writing it down now… Thank you, goodbye.
Sylvia hangs up. Sighs.
IAIN: What was that?
SYLVIA: Oh a reporter, well, someone, claiming to be a reporter, always finding ways to get our number, I will have to complain to the phone company again, or else just get rid of the phone altogether. It seems they are the only ones who even call us now. And it’s always the same, so polite, and then they start with the details, all the horrible details, he did this, he did that, he cut there and here and what came off and what was found in the pantry. I really don’t know where to begin. That’s not a life for anyone, having to be around people like that, with all that, mayhem, that’s not a life at all. It would turn your sense of proportion inside out.
IAIN: I am not talking about that.
SYLVIA: Well what then? You heard me as I saw you.
IAIN: Sylvia Rice.
Iain stands up, approaches Sylvia.
IAIN: You haven’t been Sylvia Rice in years.
SYLVIA: Oh a slip of the tongue.
IAIN: You haven’t had a slip of the tongue in years either, I should know. Sylvia Rice. Not for almost a decade. You are Sylvia Gerald now. Do you remember, that wonderful say, when we danced, and all of that. Oh what a day it was. (Takes Sylvia and barely dances.) Oh those were the days, and the mornings and the nights, but the evenings mostly, when the sun was setting, and you were at your most romantic, depths.
SYLVIA: I’ll make the tea.
IAIN: Oh there’s no need for tea, not when we have love.
SYLVIA: Oh stop it. Everyone needs tea.
IAIN: Not everyone. There was a world before tea and there will be a world right after it. (They stop. Part.) It must be terrible to be born into a family of miscreants. It must have been so much pressure to succeed. To overcome. To be better, or just to be good. In any case, it must have been hard.
SYLVIA: Not all of us. My mother was a good woman.
IAIN: Yes, true, she was.
SYLVIA: And my sisters could hardly be blamed, that was the way they were brought up to be, to carry on the sense of privilege when it had long evaporated from the genes.
IAIN: So we must pity them also.
SYLVIA: No, pity, no. They are beyond that, and there castle walls are very, very thick.
IAIN: I suppose you are right. (Iain returns to his chair.) It is a pity because I always liked your brother the best.
SYLVIA: I think he was fond of you as well.
IAIN: Such a pity, such a handsome boy. And not altogether dim. Not blindingly brilliant but with a bit of dedication he could have prospered. Prospects. That he probably had. Prospects, with the right inclination and the correct guidance, he would have made something of himself.
SYLVIA: In his own way he did, without the help of anyone.
IAIN: I guess so. It would have helped to be a little bit quieter with the whole thing, don’t you think.
SYLVIA: He couldn’t help it.
IAIN: So they say.
SYLVIA: He couldn’t help it, he was always a sick boy. He was handsome yes, but not altogether, and that is why he stood out. Even over me. And I shined. But he sang. So attention goes where it wants to. It is always out of control.
Pause. Sylvia starts to weep gently. Wipes her eyes. Iain hears her, turns but does not get up.
IAIN: Are you crying?
IAIN: Why are you crying? Was it the phone call?
IAIN: What is it then?
SYLVIA: Why don’t they ring for me? Why doesn’t anyone ring for me? Why do they always have to ring for him?
IAIN: Oh my love, there’s no need to cry.
SYLVIA: Why can’t I be Sylvia Rice? Why can’t I have doors opened for me?
IAIN: I don’t know.
SYLVIA: I used to shine. And all I get is this. Why don’t they ring for me?
IAIN: Oh there’s no need to cry.
IAIN: Oh, there’s just no need.
Iain shrugs and resumes reading his notes. Sylvia stands crying.
Roy Endean’s work has been published in Brand magazine and performed by the Accidental Theatre Company in Belfast.